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Second Harvest food pantry to return to Main Street building
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The mobile food pantry that comes to Gays Mills every month, known as the Second Harvest Food Pantry, will return to its former location at the old community building on Main Street next month, the village board decided at their meeting Monday night.

The popular mobile food pantry held on the fourth Wednesday of every month had relocated to the new Gays Mills Community Commerce Center for their monthly food giveaway on Wednesday, Jan. 23. The move was in response to the Gays Mills Village Board decision to mothball the village’s old community building to save on winter heating expenses.

Problems at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center site including lack of adequate parking, poor accessibility for the pallets of food and the semi trailer that delivered them, conflicts with other building users and more led the group and village board members to look for another location.

A logical choice was the previous location, the former Gays Mills Community Building at 212 Main Street. Although the village board had wanted the building winterized and the utilities shut off to save on energy costs, village trustee Harry Heisz found out through Jim Chellevold, the village’s director of public works, that action to mothball the building had not been taken yet.

At the meeting on Monday, Heisz moved and Aaron Fortney seconded the motion to relocate the mobile food pantry’s monthly activity back to the former community building on Main Street. The board approved the motion.

It was agreed Heisz would work with Chellevold to find a way to best contain energy costs, while making a heated building with water available for the food pantry once per month.

A three-part request from village resident Joe Klekamp for acquisition of property on and behind the 100 block of State Highway 171 was also discussed and at least two parts of the request were acted upon.

Klekamp had previously requested the village close an alley that runs behind property in the 100 block of State Highway 171 and allow him to acquire the property. Klekamp further requested the village sell him a garage on the former Eby property that was acquired by the village as part of  a buyout of the property. The garage abuts the alley. Finally, Klekamp requested the village sell him the former Eby lot itself. The residence that stood upon the lot was already removed.

Heisz addressed the requests separately in a motion. The village trustee stated that he had no problem with closing the alley and deeding the property to Klekamp, if the only other affected resident approved as he had previously indicated he would. Heisz pointed out that closing the alley would save the village money in maintenance over the years.

Heisz also favored selling the garage to Klekamp at a price that would cover any costs for title work or other associated costs to the village. The garage had been put up for public bid previously, but the sale was never concluded.

Heisz’s motion to sell the garage to Klekamp was contingent on the village having the legal right to do so without going through the public bid process again.

Finally, Heisz questioned whether the lot should be sold outright to Klekamp without making it available to others to bid and purchase it.

“I sort of think we have to put it up for anyone in the village to buy it,” Heisz said at one point.

The board approved the motion to begin the procedure to close the village-owned alley, and sell the garage to Klekamp at a price that would cover any costs the village would encounter in making the sale. This was dependent on finding out if the building could be sold without going through a pubic bid process. Finally, at the suggestion of village president Craig Anderson, the board agreed to table the sale of the lot pending future clarification and debate.

“So were not saying yes and we’re not saying no (to the future sale of the lot to Klekamp),” Anderson said in summarizing to move to table the action on the future of the lot.

During the Central Business District Manager’s Report given by Gays Mills Recovery Coordinator Julia Henley, Anderson attempted to clarify the situation surrounding work done to the village’s log cabin park and payment made by the Crawford County Historical Society.

Anderson referenced a communication from the historical society that indicated work done on the buildings was being billed at too high of a cost. The village president addressed the concern at a committee meeting last week and said at the time that any agreement or disagreement about work done on the log cabins and how much it was worth was between the historical society, which held the funds for the purpose of the repairing the cabins, and the Friends of Gays Mills, which was contracting for the work to be done. The village president acknowledged at last week’s meeting, as well as Monday night, that the situation was complicated by the fact that the village was the owner of the log cabin buildings.

“My point here is about boundaries and responsibilities,” Anderson said to Henley at one point. “The historical society has a relationship with the Friends of Gays Mills over the repair of the log cabins not with the village.”

“It’s a challenging situation,” Henley said in response to Anderson. “Money was secured locally to maintain the cabins, but was turned over to the Crawford County Historical Society.”

Henley went on to explain at one point that the Crawford County Historical Society had attempted to sell the cabins and have them taken away.

“I stopped that from happening,” Henley stated. “I felt it was important that  they stay where they are.”

Henley said that the money was accessed to repair the cabins and there was about $900 left at this point.

“Are you happy with the work that was done?” village trustee Earl Winsor asked.

“Yes,” Henley answered. She acknowledged the historical society was not happy with the work, but questioned whether the historical society would be happy with any work that was done.

In answer to a previous question, Henley indicated that the Friends of Gays Mills had changed into the Village Stewards.

At one point, village resident Kay Smiley took the floor to clarify that the Village Stewards, of which she was a member, were “just doing the gardening part and the repairs (to the cabins) were not a part of what they were doing.”

Anderson asked Henley if the Friends of Gays Mills is now the Village Stewards.

“The Friends of Gays Mills just kind of evaporated,” Henley said. “It was a way as a non-profit to get things going. The Friends of Gays Mills was Mickie Rasch and myself trying to make something happen.”

On another matter, Henley also reported that it would be important to work with Vierbicher's Kurt Muchow, the recovery project’s hired planner, to ascertain how much of the contingency funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) remains. The recovery coordinator reported that her last conversation with EDA officials a week ago it was her feeling that they were making sure that they had “dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.”

Village trustee Albert Zegiel asked Henley about the situation with the proposed bistro for the Gays Mills Mercantile Center and the arts collective, which is currently using the space. Zegiel asked if there should be a deadline placed on the bistro project.

Henley acknowledged that the arts collective was leasing the unused bistro space at this point.

The recovery coordinator said it was ridiculous that the bistro space was “languishing for four months.”

“It needs to be resolved,” Henley said.

Anderson reminded Zegiel that Henley was no longer involved with the bistro proposal and that the decision to remove her from the project had been made in a closed session of the board.

The village president noted that he had done what had been decided in the committee meetings in the previous week and spoke with the village’s contracted attorney Eileen Brownlee about the legal aspects of the bistro proposal.

Zegiel continued to press Henley about what had happened to the bistro proposal. He asked if there hadn’t been a deadline  for the would-be bistro owner Maxine Brooks on the project.

Henley indicated there was a developed business plan that had been “solidified, when they (Brooks and her associate) pulled what they did.”

 Henley outlined  the situation in more detail.

“By today they had to make a decision,” Henley recalled “That night they did what they did. They weren’t ready.”

Anderson again reiterated that the board had taken Henley off the project during a closed session about the situation. The village president explained there were legal issues involved, but when it was done there would be a public report about it.

Anderson said that when the situation gets resolved there would be a resolution in open session. He also pledged that the situation “will not go on indefinitely.”

CouleeCap’s Kahya Fox attended the meeting to answer questions about one of the last floodplain property buyouts of Elizabeth Klekamp’s residence at 107 Park Street and the purchase agreement to build a new house for her at 505 Sunset Ridge Avenue in the redevelopment area.

 Fox told the board that the reason a price for the buyout wasn’t listed on the purchase agreement was because that amount would be the greater amount of the fair market value or the remaining amount on a mortgage. Since there was a mortgage and the remaining amount had not been calculated at this point, the agency planned to use an amended offer to purchase, when the amounts were known. The board approved the buyout and the agreement of purchase for the new construction.

Fox also told the board that work on elevation of four rental properties in the floodplain was ongoing and one was ready to be elevated with a change in the weather. The others were in various stages of being readied. One needed to pay back taxes. Others needed more information supplied.

Fox emphasized that there was still funding available for elevating rental properties in the floodplain and CouleeCap would be contacting landlords to go over options that might assist them in improving their properties through funded elevations.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• approved a conditional use permit for a property owned by the John Silvers family on De La Mater Road to be used as a private campground on the property, which was recently rezoned from residential toconservancy, with a limit of three trailers or RVs and 25-foot setback of structures or campers from the property lines

• agreed to hire appraiser Sam Tesar, as required by the EDA, to review the fair market value of area rents that were used to determine rent for Gays Mills Mercantile Center tenants

• discussed and modified the request that will be made for this year’s cemetery mowing bids

• agreed to allow the Antique Tractor Pull to use north Railroad Street between Main Street and Grove Street for an event during the Gays Mills Spring Festival on Saturday, May 11

• heard that a deputy contracted through the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department would begin working some hours in the village this week

• approved the purchase of eight used street light poles for $800 to be used in the Community Commerce Center parking lot

• approved an operator’s license for Thomas Bryant